The genes that a kitten inherits from his father determines how friendly the kitten becomes1. So, I am told. I set about checking if there was agreement amongst experts on this. The mother’s genes also have an affect on the kitten’s personality but the effect is not as strong. This seems strange. But is this nature’s way of allowing the father to have an influence over his offspring’s personality when he is excluded from raising them?
Dr. John Bradshaw at the University of Southampton, UK, writes that:
“A small number of controlled breeding experiments have been carried out in which the behaviour of the sire has been related to the behaviour of its offspring”…(Fabcats website)
So, he agrees. He also writes in The True Nature of the Cat:
It has now been demonstrated several times that tom cats tend to produce kittens that are as friendly or unfriendly as they are themselves. Mothers must also tend to produce kittens that are as friendly or unfriendly as they are, although they will also influence their kittens’ friendliness directly, through their own behaviour.”
The father’s personality is transmitted to his offspring through his genes. The mother affects her kittens’ personality through the way she raises them and to a lesser extent through her genes. If she is timid her behavior will be copied by the kittens and vice versa i.e. a friendly outgoing mother will probably raise friendly kittens through the teaching/learning process.
Linda P Case writes2…
..a paternal effect on behavior has also been reported, and this effect is likely to be entirely inherited, since the male cat plays no part in the raising of his kittens
Of course, there are other influences on personality one of which is litter size and socialisation. Apparently, cats born to large litters of four or more kittens, and which remain together for at least 10-12 weeks, are the most sociable cats, subject, of course to other influences such as father’s genes.
When discussing cat personalities people tend to categorise cats into two groups: bold and timid. This is important in the human to cat relationship because bold cats are more likely to have a better relationship with their human caretaker because they are less stressed, which translates to being more friendly. Timid cats require more work to make a good connection and are probably more defensive and standoffish.
In reference to a study by an animal behavior expert, Sandra McCune, Sarah Hartwell writes that:
..friendliness is all about being less fearful and linked to the production of stress hormones…..McCune found that the friendliest kittens were those from the friendly father..
Conclusion: the title to this post is correct.
- What is my cat thinking? by Gwen Bailey ISBN 978-0-600-61976-5
- The Cat Its Behavior, Nutrition & Health page 102. Linda Case’s reference is Friendliness to humans and defensive aggression in cats: The influence of handling and paternity…by Reisner I.R. et al.